Botswana is known to be the safest country in Africa. It has one of the lowest crime rates on the continent. The country is financially and politically stable and the people are very gentle and peace-loving. If clients have a full itinerary of places they are visiting in Africa we always recommend they leave their valuables at home so that they can just get on and enjoy their trip without worrying about their whereabouts. You really don’t need jewelry or fancy things in Africa. Your greatest treasure will be your smile and your willingness to share it. It should give guests added peace of mind that our lodges have never ever experienced any form of crime whatsoever.
Botswana is an African country located toward the southern tip of Africa. It’s bordered by Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa and shares a very short border with Zambia. It boasts one of the sparest populations in the world but ranks 47 th in the world for sheer area size. 79% of the population is indigenous to Botswana and are known as Tswana. Major minority ethnic groups include the Kalanga and the San. There are about 10,000 San who still live the hunter-gatherer lifestyle – you can find out more about them and their fascinating lives when you visit the Tsodilo Hills from Nxamaseri Island Lodge.
Magic does exist. You just need to find it. Tsodilo Hills is sacred for multiple reasons, and it has been since around 800 to 1300 AD when bushmen first began creating over 4 000 rock paintings. Subject matter ranges from the likes of whales and penguins to sexually aroused male figures. Consisting of four large pieces of rock, this rare spectacle rises dramatically from the dry, vast desert landscape.
The bushmen who have inhabited the area for over a thousand years, have humanised the dramatic natural formation by referring to the largest rock as ‘male’, the middle size as ‘female’ and the smallest as ‘child. The legend gets more interesting with the fourth hill being cited as the ‘male’s’ first wife. And yes, you guessed it – he left her for a younger woman. It is also believed to be the resting place of spirits.
The legend further tells that the top of the ‘male’ is most sacred. It is here where the first spirit created the world. It is believed by the Hambukushu people that their tribe was lowered by their God, Nyambe to the female hill. They have ‘evidence’ to prove it thanks to hoof prints that are imprinted into a rock. But beware! Anyone who hunts or harms near the hills will receive misfortune direct from the gods!
Expect to see the Tsodilo Gecko, various buck as well as hornbills, louries and Melba Finches. These hills are the perfect combination of legend and unique visual reward.
Under African Skies is the brainchild of Brad and PJ Bestelink who have both called the Okavango home for decades. In 1980 PJ founded one of the first ever camps in the Okavango Delta: Nxamaseri Island Lodge. For months he searched for the perfect spot to build his home and photographic safari camp, and eventually settled on an island in the Nxamaseri Channel for its serenity and beauty. In doing so he pioneered fly fishing in Botswana which has subsequently, for decades, enchanted premier fishermen from all over the world. With an ever curious mind and a heart for adventure, he and his wife Barney, then decided to launch the first ever horse safari in southern Africa which they did on a private concession on the western side of the Delta.
Brad, PJ’s son, was born and raised in the Okavango and from as early as he could remember he would spend hours studying animal behavior. Fascinated with the African bushveld he spent every possible second that he could immersed in the bush, marveling at God’s perfect masterpiece. On completion of high school, Brad moved straight to the bush and never left. For a decade he spent every waking minute with the globally renown Dereck and Beverly Joubert, learning everything he could about camera work and capturing wildlife documentaries. He learnt so much from this remarkable couple and knew it was time for him to start his own film company and reach even more people with wildlife documentaries captured in his home territory, the Okavango. And so Natural History Film Unit was born.
The core motivation of Brad and PJ has always been to make people fall in love with conservation. Eco-tourism is the only sustainable model that works: protecting crucial wilderness areas and uplifting the rural populations skirted around these areas and who call it home. Both gentleman have had remarkable success in their respective fields having won hundreds of awards too numerous to mention over the years. Both are internationally recognized as African Game Changers who have made a monumental impact on African wildlife.
Concerned that lodges were becoming more and more high end, they decided it was time to combine their resources and expand their impact by building a handful of lodges focused on delivering authentic African experiences at an affordable-luxury price point. Enter Under African Skies. The target launch date of July 2020 was pushed out due to the global Co-Vid crisis but the committed teams kept up the pace of delivery to welcome guests as soon as the world could come out of hibernation and travel again.
With every crisis comes the opportunity to reflect and learn from our mistakes. The source of the Corona Disease was the wet markets. It is our hope that the world has seen what can happen when animals are handled cruelly. The global trade of wildlife and its by-products must be banned forever or humanity will pay the ultimate price: our extinction. Wildlife is a gift to humans. It elevates our souls and gives us meaning. It must be treated as such. Now and for generations to come.
We would like to welcome the world to Botswana, to restore their hope in humanity and to invigorate their souls at one of the extraordinary camps at Under African Skies, whilst marveling and appreciating our wildlife like never before. We can’t wait to see you and your loved ones in the Okavango, Botswana.
It is challenging to communicate the uniqueness of the Okavango Delta via a written description. Even photos do it little justice. Even for this reason alone, it is a place that must be visited at least once in your life. The Okavango River runs through the centre of the Kalahari Desert. It is an unspoiled wilderness that is fed by floodwaters of central Africa, spanning around 15 000 square kilometres. It is the captivating fanning out of these waters into the Delta that creates the wetland system.
The peace is palpable as a boat or mokoro meander through palm-lined channels, lagoons and islands. At times you will have the surreal sensation of seemingly floating on grass. It is raw nature at its best and most exhilarating. Teeming with life both in the water and above, hippos are ever near and vocal, birds serenade as you pass by while crocodiles are far more silent as they cut through the water often unnoticed.
When you do visit, it will come as no surprise that the Okavango Delta became the 1 000 th site on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2014. It is only a visit alone, that can truly communicate its magic. When they say there’s nothing like it on earth, that is one hundred percent correct. Literally.
When visiting Botswana, one expects the noises of city life to be traded with those of virtual silence. This is untrue. The sounds of nature are a flamboyant array of anything but silence. For this reason alone, visiting Botswana is special.
Instead of the ring of a cell phone, there are trills of insects. There are cries and incessant chatter from the extensive and varied birdlife. Hippos create a choir of trademark grunts and snorts, that Botswana wouldn’t be Botswana without. It’s sounds of real life. It’s the sounds you’ll keep on returning for. Botswana is live entertainment as nature intended.
It’s not just sounds, however, that delight. Botswana is famous for relatively easy sightings of some of the most magnificent African wildlife. Imagine the privilege of viewing an endangered wild dog in its natural habitat? Or perhaps an endearing, characterful aardvark may cross your path. One thing you can be sure of is seeing many elephant – Botswana has the largest elephant population on the African continent. Oh, the stories you can tell!
Botswana is also home to its very own migration. Second only in size to that of the Serengeti. In excess of 25 000 zebra begin their migration to sumptuous grazing grounds at the beginning of the rainy season in November. While it is spectacular there is no shortage of natural drama as predators such as leopard and lion stalk the young and weak.
Botswana can be explored via many modes of transport. From game drives, to horseback safaris, to Mokoro’s, to braving the African bush on foot (with a guide, of course), Botswana has something for everyone. It is little wonder that this home to the Okavango Delta, the Kalahari Desert and the Chobe National Park is one of Africa’s most sought-after safari and experiential destinations.